I guess that’s just what I needed – 8th January 2018

It still seems weird to write dates that start with two-zero. When actual writing was still an actual thing, dates always started with a one-nine.  It was actual writing that originally gave me RSI in the right wrist.  From writing out invoices and orders at my job, when computers were just things that were talked about on Tomorrow’s World.  And then writing the diary of 1994ever, which I eventually ended up turning to an old word processor to complete.  It got to the point where I couldn’t even hold a pen.

The RSI returned later when I ended up back at an IT desk job, triggered by mouse usage.  I switched to using the mouse with the left hand so that I could develop the pain there too.  Not only do I have weak wrists, I ended up with torn elbow tendons too – this time from the repetitive work of being a barista.  Really it would all go back to having poor posture and being a general weakling.  I scoffed at my school friend who would spend time lifting weights to build his muscles but just how many things can you look back at and wish you’d have been smarter?

Today’s title is my obscure way of talking about cars.  As I have very little interest in cars I thought it might be a challenge to try and write about them.  Really they will just be a sidetrack to certain memories which will hopefully provide some amusement or at least diversion from things you might be more concerned about.

Before the age of eight, the only memory I have of my mother owning a car was falling out of it onto the pavement (it was stationary at the time).  I don’t remember about feeling any pain but apparently, I was upset enough to be taken to the hospital and told that everything was ok.

I used to walk to school and I can vividly remember walking down into the town and back up the steep hill with my mother carrying bags of shopping and nagging me to hurry up.  This was in a town called Whitehaven in Cumbria, England.

We left the north when I was 8 and spent six months in Devon but I don’t recall how we got there, whether by bus, train or car.  I have little memory of us owning a car here but we must have as I do recall waiting outside the school gates to be picked up.  In fact one day I was so annoyed and upset that my mother hadn’t come to pick me up and I ended up walking the 4 miles or so along the dual carriageway and up the hill to home.  My mother was there and surprised to see me as it was only just after lunch.  I thought it was home time somehow.  I argued that it wouldn’t make sense to take me back to school just for another couple of hours before having to come back and pick me up again but she insisted.  Bloody hell – I was upset that I wasn’t picked up, upset at my mistake and now triply upset at having to go back to school and answer questions about where I was after lunch.  I guess I survived but wonder at what kind of psychologic impact seemingly little events like this cause us as we grow up.

I don’t know why we moved to Devon.  I’m sure I was told but it probably had little meaning to my tiny mind.  Six months later though and we moved again to my mother’s parents house in the countryside, about 4 miles outside the small town of Wimborne Minster in Dorset.  The first car I remember from here was an old grey Austin Morris that had indicators that flipped out from the side of the car.  I found this hilarious and somewhat embarrassingly old-fashioned.  Because it was at this house I developed an interest in cars as most little boys do.  I think the Morris soon died and I mostly remember us having a white Ford Cortina after that.

Matchbox is a name most people my age will remember.  They were the most popular of toy cars though I seemed to own more of the cheaper brands than Matchbox ones themselves.  Despite having Maseratis and Lamborghinis my favourite car was a Ford Capri.  I just loved the design and the shape of the back window.  Perhaps I also started becoming aware of our class status in the world and just as I couldn’t afford to have so many Matchbox cars, the luxury cars would forever be out of my reach and somehow a Ford Capri was still within the realm of possibility.  I was only 10 so I should probably have started saving then.

Before I started being an anti-social teenager I would spend the evenings with my mother watching TV.  She looked after her parents but I didn’t have much interest or interaction with them except for Sunday roast lunches and even that I managed to get out of when I was a little older.  They weren’t horrible or anything, were quite left-wing I believe and also atheists.  But they were terribly old fashioned and me, I was a young boy desperate for adventures but stuck in countryside England.

The couch in my mother’s room was like an upholstered park bench so there was a lot of space underneath it where were kept things that needed to be handy but not used every day.  I decided I wanted to acquisition this space for myself.  Not for my things but for me.  I would lie underneath and watch TV from there with the aid of a cushion.  I wonder now if this may have been the start of my dodgy neck and posture problems.  I’m stretching and rubbing my neck now as I’m thinking about this.

Next to the couch was the bureau and I soon cleared out any junk and papers under here and made myself a space for a ‘race-track’.  This was merely a space into which I could push my toy cars and see which went the furthest and I would do this relentlessly.  The Ford Capri would often win and I somehow told myself this was because it was a superior car and not because I was pushing it harder than the others.

Next developed my interest in tables, scores and statistics.  I was already a keen football fan and poured over books of tables and statistics of years gone by.  My interest in music was also developing as I keenly watched certain songs go up and down the charts week to week on Top of the Pops.  It was here that I saw the Sex Pistols playing ‘Pretty Vacant’ and things changed forever, but that’s another story.

I decided it was best to keep track of my car races and charted their progress.  I don’t remember if it was day by day or week by week but I did fill a textbook with these charts and it was confirmed the Ford Capri was the greatest car in the world.

I think I must’ve stopped playing with these toy cars around the time that I retreated to live in my bedroom, or as I thought of it, as being too old to hang out with my mother.  I would walk or ride my push bike around locally until my late teens when I upgraded to a little 50cc step-through motorbike that I would hammer to death and never maintain and it probably wasn’t until my early 20s that I bought my first car – my dreams of a Ford Capri as far away as the luxury European sports cars.  I had to settle for a putrid coffee brown Morris Marina – my most hated car in the world.  It showed me as much love in return and we gladly left each other about a year later after an aborted attempt to travel upcountry for a gig that saw me broke and dejected, borrowing money to buy some consolation beer for the sad train journey home.

I think I ended up with a blue Fiat 127 next.  Extremely unstylish but I kinda grew to love it.  The weird thing about this car was the massive thin gear stick.  I discovered that this was a huge piece of plastic stuck on a tiny stick and ended up leaving it off.  It would’ve been a very effective cosh, like a small baseball bat, but luckily never required that use.

The next car of note was a Vauxhall Princess and not of note because of its ability.  The only excitement of this car was its purchase.  Found in an ad in the local newspaper it wasn’t far from where I lived and was in the price bracket I could afford.  I went round with my partner at the time and was greeted by a grubby overweight man in shorts and a wife beater.  He showed us the car and we decided we wanted it so went into his living room to exchange money and papers.  He took a seat in his armchair and filled out the paperwork.  It was difficult not to notice two things at this point.  One was the large jar of pickled onions beside his armchair, the other was the pornographic video we had interrupted his watching and that he thought was ok to let continue playing.  Suddenly the man seemed grubbier still – I mean, come on, pickled onions!  We dropped the money, grabbed the papers and escaped as quickly as we could, dreading to think what was now occurring in that dim front room.

At some point, that car left my life and the best car I ever owned entered.  Again, sourced from a newspaper ad – that was the only way to do things back then.  This was the magical Ford Escort that would soon be dubbed the ‘Rocket from the Crypt’.  The special thing about this car was that its body was barely held together by rusted metal and was sure to fail its next inspection – hence its price of 20 pounds.  The magic was underneath the hood as this thing never failed to start and never suffered any issues at all.  Sadly when it came to inspection time we had to let it go as the cost to fix up the exterior would be about 30 times what we paid for it.  I reluctantly sold it for 15 pounds and annoyingly found out someone had done a dodgy service on it putting it straight back on the road – something I wish I had considered.  I found out because I received a letter in the mail from the local police about driving away from the scene of an accident but I pointed out to them that I had already sold the car prior.

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After this came a Mini van which I adapted with cheap stereo equipment and I would often bring along a second car battery to hook it up to directly, put the speakers on top of the car and have an impromptu party, jumping up and down on the bonnet.  Ok, I only did this once and I was drunk and high at Reading Festival but the memory is clear on that one.

The downside of this Mini van though was that the back doors didn’t quite close properly and the exhaust fumes would get sucked back into the car often making us feel sick.  As well as that time driving back from the Phoenix Festival in the pouring rain and windscreen wipers stopped working.  That was a tough drive.

That was all in England.  Once arriving in Australia cars became more functional, reliable and obviously, more expensive.  No 20-pound bargains here.  Due to the great distances required to travel anywhere else from where you are reliability becomes much more important.  I stuck with Hyundais and Toyotas, the Toyotas starting out as lease cars and often lent to friends in bands to tour as I needed to achieve a certain mileage each year to warrant it being leased, else paying huge penalties.

Very little to report about these cars except the one night parked on a busy street in Newtown, my girlfriend and I steamed up the car windows with various acts that were thankfully ignored by passers-by.  That gear stick though…..  Afterwards, we went to see the Jesus Lizard.  What a night.

Just before leaving Sydney my work colleague asked if I would like to sell him my car – a well serviced white Toyota Corolla that I never ever washed.  He wanted it for his daughter’s birthday which was a couple of months away.  I thought it was a good idea but still needed it to drive to Adelaide and would probably need until I decided to leave, but if he could wait until then, then it was a deal.

As it turned out I ended up sharing a house with a guy who likes buying cars, fixing them up a bit and then selling them again for a couple of hundred dollars profit.  This meant there was always a spare car or two hanging around the house.  My friend back in Sydney was often making sure the Toyota was still available so I asked my housemate about the possibility of using one of his cars for a while until I left.  One of the cars he had around was a beat up Ford Falcon ute which he was actually hoping to keep around as it was useful for carrying things about the place but he was also thinking he’d have to sell as he was mainly using another car to drive to and from work all the time.  And so a deal was struck.  If I paid for the ute’s registration I could use it and my friend could come and pick up my Toyota, and in time for his daughter’s birthday.

This ute is my second favourite car as it is a big chunky wreck.  Even my housemate said not to worry too much if it gets any little dents and other drivers in their nice newish cars tend to steer clear as much as they can.  It drives like a demon, has no aircon or heater and stinks of petrol and years of ground in oil and dirt.  It’s done nearly 400,000 kilometres and is on its second engine.  The accelerator is a little sticky and it chews up petrol so I’m not going on any fancy drives anywhere but for the back and forth to the office it’s perfect.

This update has reminded me of a Toyota ad that was constantly played on TV when I arrived in Australia. “More room front to back, more room side to side, the really really roomy Toyota!”  Advertising does work I guess.

If ugliness is all you see you can just tear out your eyes – 16th August 1994

Five days is often too long a period of time to recall some events and with the blur of the weekend that passed, anything beyond is lost without a struggle, ‘cept I remember Broni had the Friday off work and we went into town. I remember the bookshop and that’s it! Lettuce and coriander also trigger those memory cells. Aha – recall we got stoned in the evening and a bottle of sparkling wine! Needless to say, we fell asleep after that!

On Saturday we found ourselves back in Southampton with the intention of sorting through poems with Rob but we got diverted by music and cooking for the bands playing tonight’s gig. Time flies by with some way cool conversation concerning certain columns for the next S.T.E. gig bulletin (and Rob’s cool one for the current bulletin).

Me and Broni go via Selinas to drop off our gear then give her a lift to the gig. Lots of people, lots of noise, standard gig by the S.T.E. standards, unfortunately no bands really shine out except maybe Thirst who now sound much fuller with Phil moving over to second guitar and Crispin coming in on bass. More practice and confidence and they’ll be cool for sure.

Sooner or later (and me much drunker) we head back to Selina’s with support band Travis Cut in tow and things start to liven up and develop into a mini raging party with various people dancing round the dining room table to Rocket from the Crypt. The last time I see a clock, it’s about 2am, I’m sure I crawl up onto a bed in the middle of a conversation and curl into the fetal position only five minutes later but find out next day it was nearer 4 o’clock.

Awake at nine we find Rob crashed at the top of the stairs, no blanket, no nothing – mad boy! Rich at the bottom of the stairs claiming victory over sleep with a 6 o’clock touchdown after chatting to Selena through the last couple of hours. Johnny on the floor, who I take pity on by farting in his sleeping bag, much to Rich’s amusement and poor Johnny got relegated to the floor cause I wussed out on his bed, Broni joining me soon after apparently – I was out for the count!

Time doesn’t stand still for us anyway and before you can say Canned Heat we’re on the road again, this time too Welham Green, a tiny pretty village near St Albans, to meet another of Broni’s cousins, Purdy, her boyfriend, the strong silent softy Duncan, along with Piers and Isobel. We are zombied to some extent and the day takes on a very relaxing shape with a salad and quiche in the quiet garden while next door’s racing pigeons practice circle manoeuvers overhead and little ones running around keeping us entertained.

And here we got our first wedding gift – a beautiful blown glass bowl that we can only guess the expense of – amazing subtle colours that sparkle in the sunlight. And then, after Piers and Isobel depart, we walk off our lunch across fields, woods and streams, sun glorious in its life-bringing, the fields open up and reveal the earth and its true freedom (imprisoned and abused by man for most of us). Life couldn’t be simpler and lost I was in the beauty of it all.

And now as I write and in my dreams last night, one phrase repeats round and round my head, “If ugliness is all you see you can just tear out your eyes” (Flag of Democracy).

We get home after a 2 1/2 hour drive and slip-slide in the warm soothing waters of our bath before dozing off into dreamworld. Our minds reliving each second of each day to try and catch a memory and keep it and hold it forever (save writing it down), lost in the blur mostly. Write your book of dreams, friends.

Kept in line with truncheons, rifle butts and truncheons – sometime in April 1994

Shorthaired Johnny was being as obnoxious as ever, talking dicks and innuendo, Mr Entendre. Stomping around in bovver boots and his white T-shirt freshly laundered tucked into his jeans, new tattoos still scabby and iridescent. His big grin splits his head in half like the smiley planet from Moonshadow, and always attached to one hand or the other a can of lager (sometimes substituted for Guinness, sometimes tequila).

His eyes wide in a mad amphetamine haze, brain desperately taking in information like a wide angle lens but concentration is still good, unlike wife Selena whose strange tangents I cant keep up with, and mouth in fast forward, all else too drunk to get their words in edgeways, so while pondering her last statement she’s off again on the next story (which, we all laugh, all start ‘one time, when I was drunk’). She’s in black I think, hair wild, rocky horror and while we slam tequila she fills her glass with it and pours in some wine for good measure and sips slowly between stories, my guess that one drink lasting all night.

Her friend Lisa, the spitting image, drunkenly believes everything she’s being told and confused sitting out the side for awhile. We’re round the dining room table within reach of the fridge for more beers, and the kitchen is right there too for food and coffees, Rich, sober Rich, sipping caffeine at the start of his straightedge kick, despite his sobriety he’s laughing and playing too, laughing at himself as he says ‘well at least you guys have got an excuse (for acting like we are) you’re drunk!’ This straight edge suits him but somehow seems out of place amongst this rabble of drunkenness.

Broni, sober till midnight, is ever smiling and laughing at the merriment, she sits next to Selena, so like the rest of us Selena is talking to, we don’t get words in. I sit there too with Broni, hardly saying anything, stoned as we are and getting immediately drunk with these slammers and beers now strewn across the table.

At the other end sit three guys out of the band that played in town that night, willing and capable comrades in this action. I know not their names but let me describe instead.

One is blonde and rough, hair stuck straight up in air, black denim dressed, drunk and with a broad Scottish accent, I have no idea what he’s saying but it’s fun watching him stumble round the room, confusing Lisa, but I see later they are talking more properly.

Another Scottish fellow has short cropped hair, an altogether more sensible looking man in jeans and T-shirt (probably), except that here we double-take, he lowers his head shaved into the crop is a question mark, which explains is great if anyone asks you a question you’re not sure how to answer, just lowering skull for the quizzer to make their own mind up, these amused our drunken minds immensely.

Last is an American guy who reminds me of American guys, only in looks not in actions, I talk with him some but now it’s gone to hangover land.

Finally Rob is flitting around the table making conversations with anyone and everyone, he sits and listens patiently and then talks directly back with earnest, occasionally lifting his finger to gently push his glasses back at the bridge of his nose, sliding down as they would in the heat of this madhouse. Rob has to be commended as we find out in the morning he was up talking with Selena, who is totally faced and he’s drunk at the start and sober by the end, he goes to sleep about 15 minutes before we wake him up again, willingly making us coffees.

And some tunes blasting out through all the madness, in the other room (into the hall and there) John is shouting out with his loudest three in the morning voice ‘kept in line with truncheons, rifle butts and truncheons, this is state control, this is state control’, no one else deigning to join in, but back in the kitchen we raise ourselves out to chair stupor to jive to the sounds of the Rocket from the Crypt, those guys know how to drink therefore they know how to make music for drunkers.

And it’s here and then, in this wreckage, I realise what great friends I have around me, from my beautiful sweetheart, gentle soul-searching Rob, sober Rich, whether you’re in trouble or just in need of a beer. My loss, and Broni’s too, will be great when we have to say goodbye to them as we leave for sunnier climes, but you can guess that on that last night is going to be one hell of a party!

I cannot say that I don’t like it – 24th January 1994

Bummed around the hollow house.  A box inside other boxes.

From that box to cardboard box packed up my belongings in anticipation of our move.  The anticipation has already brought beaming teethy smiles to our weekly work-worn faces.  Here starts the weekend of the rest of our life.  For some time, anyway.

Tripped the fantastic freeway, not before Bronwyn had seven panic attacks trapped by the constricts of time.  I strummed the guitar quietly but could not temper her whirlwind.  Arrived in Southampton exactly on time!

Had a little beer before hot-footing it to the bus stop.  Fifty-nine times I wanted to step off the bus to relieve myself behind some dirty shop, down some dangerous back alley.  Held off and dashed to the pub toilets.

Boogied away with friends and beers, laughed and laughed and laughed and wound up broke.

One food stop later and emotions were running high, much discussion that I no longer recall.  One taxi journey later and emotions ran high in our little friend Rob.  Beers turned to tears and with a little advice from my beautiful baby I shut the fuck up. The tears dried up with the beers and sleep met the agenda.

Up early to a dry ugly mouth, soon satisfied with cups of hot coffee waitered by Dave.  Johnny played DJ and we tapped our toes to Superchunk, Rocket from the Crypt and Leatherface.  Johnny found his air guitar and occasionally hit the right notes.

Broni, Rob and I discussed the booklet in more depth and things should be together soon.  Rob’s done an excellent job so far.

Much talk about Mr Cynical (now self-censored!) and going to London to check out the Natural History Museum and the Boredoms in Feb.

Put rubber to road and popped into Chrissy’s, dropping in a beautiful picture of her and Steve from Corfu.  Many children ran the house.  We all left – them to their Gran’s, us to our home and the quest for food!

Supposed to hit the flicks at four with smiling Kerry but plans changed and garlic bread and sparkling wine became more wanting.  Me and baby chatted for well over an hour in that dim dingy living room that we’ll be leaving behind.

Pete, Kathryn, Steve and Rebecca got sporting and went ice skating.  I got mushy and read Kerouac to my baby until she couldn’t concentrate on his meandering trails of sentences.  I felt romantic and poetic as I hope the prose relays.

The guys came back from their adventures – Steve and Pete both claiming to be ‘the best!’  I hit the great outdoors and run the grimy streets for Haagen-Daaz – well worth the effort – many thoughts came to me and boy, am I glad to be alive (with the intention of living life to the full).  Rob lent us a CD of Phillip Glass with Allen Ginsberg readings – it’s beautiful.  Another one with a way with words.  I love all that poetic stuff and I love that about me.

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